Patricia Cloherty, Pioneer Venture Capitalist, Dies at 80

Patricia Cloherty, the daughter of a logger, was one of the first women to thrive in the high-risk, venture capital sector and was a key financial backer of fledgling companies in the country. Post-Communist Russia, passed away on September 23 at her home in Miami. She was 80.

The death was confirmed by her sister, Judith Cloherty Mendel.

Ms. Cloherty is 27 years old, has two master’s degrees from Columbia University (not in finance) and spent two years in the Peace Corps teaching Brazilian farm kids about brand new pigs when, at a In a United Nations event in 1969, she met Alan Patricof, an investor who was opening a venture capital firm.

Impressed with her intelligence, he offered her a job as a research analyst despite her lack of experience in the field.

“He said, ‘Do I want to learn the business from scratch? Cloherty recalled in a 2011 interview for an oral history project for the National Venture Capital Association. “I don’t know what a business is.”

Mr. Patricof believes she will brilliantly answer the fundamental question of venture capitalism: Which business idea is worth betting on?

“She said she had no financial knowledge,” he recalled in a phone interview. “I told her she could learn that.”

He was right. For two years, Ms. Cloherty was a partner of Patricof & Co. Ventures, which held early positions at Apple, Office Depot, and the company later known as AOL. The company grew into a multi-billion dollar international business, and she eventually became its co-chair and president.

Ms. Cloherty is particularly attracted to investments in biotech companies and others in the high-tech sector, including Agouron Pharmaceuticals, the maker of protease inhibitors used to treat HIV. ; Tessera Technologies, a manufacturer of protective packaging for computer chips; and PPL Therapeutics, the Scottish company that supplied the world with the cloned sheep Dolly.

In a 2013 interview with a Columbia University College of Teachers publication, she said that while she was not “a world saver,” she made a point of advocating for people who are struggling. try to do good things. “I’ve been a girl scout all my life, from then on I learned that you try to get out of the campsite better than you’ve found,” she said.

Ms. Cloherty left Patricof, then renamed Apax Partners, for about a decade, first becoming deputy administrator of the Small Business Administration in Washington from 1977 to 1978, and then running runs an investment firm with Daniel Tessler, whom she married. In 1977.

Cloherty’s Russia program began in 1995, when President Bill Clinton appointed her to the board of the Russian Investment Fund of the United States, tasked with investing American capital in the transition. Russia’s transition to a market economy. She became president of the foundation in 1998. Two years later, she moved to Russia for a term of 6 months. It lasted 12 years.

Ms. Cloherty became chief executive officer of the hedge fund’s general partner, Delta Private Equity Partners, which oversees the funding of more than 50 Russian companies – including the country’s first mortgage bank, the development bank launched the first credit card and the first bottled water company — and then sold most of them for what she describes as substantial profits.

Mr. Patricof attributes her success in large part to what he calls her “Pied Piper quality”.

“She has a unique ability to lead people,” he said.

Donna E. Shalala, former secretary of health and human services, congresswoman and president of the University of Miami, who has known Ms. Cloherty since the 1970s, said in an interview that her friend ” He’s the most curious person I’ve ever met.”

Patricia Mary Cloherty was born on July 2, 1942, in San Francisco, the second of four children of John and Doris (Dawson) Cloherty. Her father immigrated to the United States from Galway, Ireland, as a 13-year-old orphan. Her mother is from Victoria, British Columbia.

Her parents worked for the South Pacific Railroad during World War II and ran a dry cleaning shop in the city after the war ended.

In an interview with the Venture Capital Association, Mrs. Cloherty recalled how she first learned about staking.

While taking care of young Pat and her siblings, she said, her grandmother would, with “her bottle of gin,” take them to the local racetrack to bet on races.

“Excuse us, we are only 3, 4 and 5 years old, so we hit the track early,” explains Ms. Cloherty. “That was my upbringing.”

When she was about 5 years old, she said, the family moved to Pollock Pines, Calif., a village half an hour south of Lake Tahoe in the Sierra Nevada. Her father had jobs there as a logger and builder; Her mother is a real estate agent and a librarian. The couple also run a freshwater fountain.

According to Mrs. Cloherty, the family is poor and life in the mountains can be difficult. But there’s a lot to keep a person busy, she says. An avid reader and self-proclaimed “excellent” student, she is also an accomplished athlete and tinker, who uses instructions cut out of Wheat crumbs to make a waterproof matchstick holder, a reflector and a tent from a military parachute.

She recounted that when she was 12 years old, she was skiing with two friends, carrying homemade camping gear, when an avalanche trapped the girls for two days. She suffered from frostbite that lasted for more than 50 years.

After graduating from high school, Cloherty attended San Francisco Girls’ College (a Catholic school now part of the Jesuit-run University of San Francisco) on a scholarship, earning a bachelor’s degree in Western literature. Classical Greek and Spanish in 1963.

The Peace Corps was formed around the time she was about to graduate, and Miss Cloherty decided to join.

But she soon reconsidered after meeting Baroness Maria von Trapp, the matriarch of the Trapp Singers made famous in “The Sound of Music”. Ms. von Trapp, who was visiting San Francisco, urged her not to go.

“She said, ‘You can’t do that,’” Ms. Cloherty recalls. “‘You will become a pawn for American foreign policy, and you will ruin your life.”

After briefly working on von Trapp’s Vermont ranch as the baron’s assistant, Miss Cloherty joined the legion. She was taken to a remote part of Brazil, where she trained farming families in animal husbandry and other agricultural skills.

A Ford Foundation scholarship funded her Columbia master’s degrees in education and international affairs.

In addition to her sister, Miss Cloherty is survived by an older brother, Michael. Her marriage to Mr. Tessler ended in divorce.

Before moving to Florida in 2017, Ms. Cloherty split her time between an apartment in Manhattan and a home in Garrison, NY, in the Hudson Valley (and within a few years, an apartment in Moscow). After retiring in 2012, she continued to mentor colleagues informally until a few months ago. Her pastimes include hiking, often with friends like Ms. Shalala, near her Garrison home and in more remote places like the Himalayas and Mexico.

Mrs. Cloherty told The New York Times in 1988: “The mountains bring the greatness of everyday modern life into the perspective of modern living.”

When asked in a College of Education interview about her business philosophy, she came up with a maxim that she says applies the same to life in general.

“If you find something appealing to you, never hesitate to take a risk,” she says. “Never put making money before completing the goal.”

Alain Delaquérière and Sheelagh McNeill contributed research.


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